"Have you thought about writing your family history, but found yourself stuck from the start? Writing a family narrative can be a daunting task, but Karen Jones Gowen found a way to bring her mother's story to life." (Homespun Magazine)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Journal Writing as Psychotherapy

January was a mess. Crazy. I gained six pounds. But that's all over now because February is my new January. I will move forward with the year, working on my goals and aspirations with top of the list being to lose that six pounds!

Sometimes one's balancing act gets tipsy. It may be a dramatic change in routine, or a tragic event, or a series of stressful occurences that end up overwhelming and upsetting the equilibrium. When that happens, people react in different ways. I wish that my way were to clean out closets and run five miles every day. Wouldn't that be nice? But I'm a writer, so I write and write and write until it all becomes clear. Without time to write in my journal, the muddiness lasts longer.

I know people say to save our journals for posterity but I don't think posterity wants the mess that are my journals of the past decade or longer. Back when I was going through the bound, purchased journals in 3 months, I decided our budget needed me to change tactics. Now I fill binders with paper that's blank on one side. Being in love with paper, I save it and have stacks of it, more than enough to feed my writing addiction. I punch holes in this "scratch paper," fill a fat, three-ring binder and voila-- a new journal!

I save these journals in boxes, on shelves, stacked on desks. My current one of course is right next to my writing chair. Sometimes if I wake up early with a troubled mind, I'll spend a few hours before I start my day figuring it all out in my journal. It works like magic. On my other blog I said I didn't know where I would be without books. I could add journals to that. I can't imagine life without them. Not for posterity, for me! Well, and for the people who have to live with me. I'd be so messed up without my journal writing.

What is your personal form of psychotherapy? If you say cleaning out closets and jogging five miles, we can still be friends but I will be very jealous.


  1. I've written in journals over the years. Or rather, they turn out to be mini-stories, usually. Thank goodness I wrote during times of stress or my novel about to be published wouldn't be!

    But my personal form of psychotherapy, at the beginning of a disaster or loss or whatever, is to move furniture around, or sometimes to sell it and buy new stuff. And I always had at least one special friend who listened to me sometimes two or three times a day when I was in distress mode.

    Of the journals I've kept, I've gone back and crossed out some passages I don't want anyone else to read!!!

    But journal writing and reading--that's your thing, so do it and don't worry about gaining six pounds!
    Ann Best, Author

  2. Karen, I've been keeping journals since I got married or maybe it is more like chronicling. I've chronicled our family camping trips, the children's lives--or rather my thoughts about my children's growth progress. Lately, I've been trying to understand my feelings about various family/children obstacles and my obstacles in publishing my work.

    While I have numerous books--scrapbooks with family anecdotes, picture books, family poetry and thank you notes--I have sinced moved to the computer and various files in my documents. Sometimes my penmanship is illegible. However, I do tend to edit as I type on the computer.

    In particularly difficult situations, I tend to take walks--by myself--and talk to the Lord. With five children, I am not by myself long enough to write much. But writing is wonderful!

  3. It sure as heck isn't running! I do like long walks, but I'm the sort the word "leisurely" was invented for. ;)

    My personal psychotherapy is writing fiction. I can take any situation and make it work out exactly how I want it to. That's what I call therapeutic. :)

  4. I don't do any of the above but I do keep word doc.s filled up with this that and the other thing.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  5. I'm afraid mine is shopping!! :-) Or maybe just treating myself to a favourite coffee and cupcake. :-)

    Take care

  6. Hi Karen
    When I'm cross I tend to tidy up, take out my frustrations on the furnishings!

    I don't write a journal, but I do write things down when things are weighing me down, I get it all in order on paper until it's all put in perspective and then I throw it away! It really works!

  7. Hi Karen .. I've never written journals .. but since I've been blogging I've kept numerous interesting articles - I think I'm about to go through and start chucking .. because I really don't need them. What I remember is being put into the blog in some way .. not having children means my mind can wander in various directions.

    I have my aunt's journals - some of them .. and I used a quote and day note on something for my brother the other day .. just an interest.

    I should make notes on things my mother says - because they'd be wonderful to have as a record .. but four years on .. it's still happening but not quite so often.

    It's good to clear the decks though - and I'll be like you walking (up the hill) to my mother's Nursing Centre some time soon - to clear the mind .. Spring is coming soon .. you've had lots going on .. cheers Hilary

  8. My form of pyschotherapy is to write, unfortunately my journals all tend to be depressing.

    I love how you create your own journals with binder, paper and a 3 hole punch. Very creative!


  9. I might have told you this already, but I kept journals my whole life. It wasn't always organzied, with much of it being written on napkins, matchbooks, anything I could find. It was all lost during one of my last moves. It was well before I ever blogged and I'd never thought about digitizing it... I loved them. I think it's a great form of pyscotherapy, at lesast that's what my pyschotherapist told me...

  10. Pat, There are those who would say "how sad, what a loss" that your bits of journals got lost. Maybe it makes you sad. As for me, I don't want my notebooks to survive me as they might be misunderstood by my family. I'd find it a relief if they somehow got "lost."


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